Huang Rong was still young and proud, she always tried to outdo others, she also had a high confidence on her excellent memory, so she smiled and said, “What’s so difficult about it? If you want you can light up the oil lamps rearrange the bamboo sticks as you wish, then extinguish the lamps before we fight again, all right?”
Ying Gu thought, “This is not a martial art contest, but a memorization competition. This little demon’s intelligence is matchless, how can I risk my life playing memory game with her while my big enmity is not avenged?” But suddenly she got an inspiration; after thinking about it for a moment she said, “Fine, that’s fair enough. Let the Old Lady accompany you playing.” Taking a flint from her pocket she lighted the oil lamps.
“Why do you keep calling yourself an old lady?” Huang Rong laughed, “I think you are beautiful, you are prettier than a sixteen years old girl. No wonder Emperor Duan was so crazy about you.”
Ying Gu was about to pull a bamboo stick and move it someplace else; hearing this she stopped dead on her track. “He was crazy about me?” she coldly said, “I was in the palace two whole years; just when did he pay any attention to other people?”
“Ah,” Huang Rong was surprised, “Didn’t he teach you martial art?” she asked.
Ying Gu retorted, “Is teaching martial art considered paying attention?”
“Ah, I know,” Huang Rong said, “Emperor Duan was training the ‘xian tian gong’ [innate/inborn strength/energy], that’s why he could not get intimate with you.”
“Humph,” Ying Gu snorted, “What do you know? How come he got the crown prince?”
Huang Rong leaned her head sideways; she thought for a moment before answering, “The crown prince was born before he started training ‘xian tian gong’.”
Ying Gu snorted again but did not say anything. She kept pulling the sticks and inserted them back in different places. As she inserted the bamboo sticks one by one Huang Rong memorized their positions carefully; she did not dare to be careless. It was a matter of life and death, if she missed just a few inches during the fight, it would mean immediate disaster to her foot.
A moment later Huang Rong spoke again, “Emperor Duan was not willing to save your son because of his love for you.”
“You knew everything?” Ying Gu said, “Humph, because of his love to me?” Her voice was brimming with bitterness.
“He was jealous of the Old Urchin,” Huang Rong said, “If he did not love you, why would he be jealous? He saw your ‘four weaving machines’ mandarin ducks handkerchief and was extremely grieved because of it.”
Ying Gu had never thought Emperor Duan had this kind of feeling toward her, she could not help but be lost in thought. Huang Rong continued, “I think you’d better come back.”
Ying Gu coldly said, “Only if you have the ability to defeat me.”
“All right,” Huang Rong said, “Since you insist, I have no alternative but risking my life to accompany you. If you can break through my defense, I definitely will not hinder you anymore. But what if you can’t?”
“I will never go up this mountain again,” Ying Gu said, “I will also free you from your obligation to accompany me for a year.”
“Wonderful!” Huang Rong clapped her hands, “It would be really unbearable for me to accompany you on that rotten black marsh.”
While talking Ying Gu had already inserted about fifty, sixty sticks; immediately she kicked the oil lamps one by one and said, “The rest of them can stay as they are.” In the darkness her five fingers formed a claw fiercely attacking Huang Rong.
Remembering the sticks location Huang Rong slanted her body sideways and without hesitation her left foot landed exactly in between two sticks; while the dog beating stick in her hand shook and attacked Ying Gu’s left shoulder. Who would have thought that Ying Gu ignored her attack, she kept moving forward in big strides and with a series of cracking sound she broke about a dozen bamboo sticks with her feet; hence freely she walked to the rear courtyard.
“Aiyo!” Huang Rong was startled; she realized immediately what had happened, “I am duped. Turned out when moving the sticks around she exerted her strength and secretly pinched the sticks broken.” Because she was trying to outdo others she had not suspected Ying Gu would do such thing; she could not help but feel really vexed.
Rushing to the rear courtyard Ying Gu stretched out her hand to shove the door open. She saw an old monk sitting on a meditation mat in the middle of the room; his silvery beard hung down to his chest, a thick monk robe wrapped around his body up to his cheeks, his head hung low in meditation. The fisherman, the woodcutter, the farmer and the scholar, along with several old monks and young apprentices stood on either side.
The woodcutter saw Ying Gu came in, he stepped forward to the old monk, clasped his palms and said, “Shifu, Liu Niang-niang has come to visit.” The old monk slightly nodded his head without saying anything.
There was only a single oil lamp in the entire meditation room, so Ying Gu could not see everybody’s face clearly. She had known earlier that Emperor Duan had become a monk, but actually she did not think that after about a dozen years without seeing each other a heroic martial artist emperor could turn into such a fragile old monk. Recalling Huang Rong’s speech she realized now that the Emperor was not totally pitiless toward her. Her heart melted and her firm grip of the dagger slowly turned loose.
Lowering her head she saw the embroidered handkerchief that was wrapped around her baby was laid in front of the meditation mat where Emperor Duan was sitting. On top of that ‘du dou’ was the jade bracelet which the Emperor gave her. Instantaneously past events like entering the palace, training martial art, meeting Zhou, love and passion, giving birth to her son, mourning his death, everything came flashing through her mind one by one like scenes on the stage; then she saw her son’s look when he was in so much pain. Although he was still a baby it seemed like his eyes spoke thousand sentences ten thousand words wondering why his mother did not alleviate his pain and suffering. Her anger rose, she raised her dagger up and with a swift movement the dagger stabbed Emperor Duan’s chest, all through the handle.
She knew Emperor Duan’s martial art skill, this stab might not necessarily kill him; moreover, when the dagger went into his chest she had a slightly different feeling. Right away she pulled the dagger back to stab him the second time. Who would have thought that the dagger was firmly stuck between his ribs; she was unable to pull it back in a moment.
The four disciples called out in alarm and rushed forward simultaneously. In her bitterness Ying Gu had painstakingly practiced this stab thousands of times over a dozen of years period. She knew perfectly well that Emperor Duan would surely guard against her attack, so while her right hand did the stabbing, her left palm had already fluttered around, guarding the left, right and the back, three sides of her own body. Now that she could not pull the dagger back, she saw the circumstances had turned to her disadvantage. Her feet moved and she leaped toward the door. Turning her head around she caught a glimpse of Emperor Duan with his left hand on his chest, seemingly in great pain.